The Vancouver Whitecaps are not exactly off to a hot start to the 2016 season. After losing their home opener 3-2 at the hands of The Montreal Impact, the warning sirens were heard loud and clear. After their 2-1 loss away to Sporting Kansas City, the fan base has been sent into a bit of a fury.
The biggest issue at the hands of the Whitecaps in the early going is the right back situation. Young Canadian international, Fraser Aird, struggled defensively against Montreal. He and multiple other ‘Caps were skinned by Argentine Ace Nacho Piatti on Montreal’s opening goal, but Aird stood up and took the blame, which should surely gain him some respect among players and supporters alike.
Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson has made it clear that the young player is learning a new position and patience is a necessary virtue. But supporters will get restless with constant mistakes. That being said, what he brings going forward with blazing speed, a tireless work rate, great crosses and a nose for goal will keep him in contention within the squad. Right back being new to Aird, his ability to play in wide midfield positions will always be something to fall back on.
The other option currently in the team is Costa Rican international Jordan Smith. He started at Kansas City, but was sent off after a rash challenge in the first half on Graham Zusi and put his team even further behind the 8-ball. Like Aird, he struggles to keep his marker at times. He’s built like a center back and for that reason, he struggles for pace. With that shortcoming, he makes up for with in his each box with his size and has the ability to create chances with long throw ins. Not exactly what Robinson is looking for with his fullbacks when he says he wants them bombing up the field attacking, but provides a different look nonetheless.
The most striking concern among those at and around the club is that both players are currently on loan. Neither player is tied to the Whitecaps long term. Smith came in halfway through last season on a loan from Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica. While during the off-season, Aird came in for a season-long loan from Rangers Football Club in Scotland. However, both players have options to buy from their parent clubs.
Coming on at half time Saturday afternoon, Aird didn’t really hurt his stock in the squad. He bombed up and down the right flank, was a pest in his marking on Zusi, who was fantastic on the day, and provided some quality service in his crosses. Could we really ask for more with their side down to 10 men?
Many have called for neither Smith nor Aird to return to the position this week in a Cascadia derby match against Seattle. Easy to make that choice as a fan, Seattle’s danger man Clint Dempsey has played on the left side thus far for Seattle. Calls for Timmy Parker to slide over and take that role and have Pa-Modou Kah move into the starting position beside Kendall Waston in the heart of defence would be the safe decision.
But let’s take a deeper look and soon find that shouldn’t be necessary. Seattle’s forwards and midfielders play a narrow 4-3-3 formation, and this opens opportunity for Aird. The Sounders don’t have a true winger on either side of their front 3, Dempsey and Jordan Morris have been there so far. The Caps don’t need Aird to be a defensive stalwart - he just has to be there when called upon and will be able to blast down the right to create.He’ll have to take his mark on Trinidadian International Joevin Jones, Seattle’s left back of choice, but that should hardly be too much to ask.
The last option is to somehow sign another right back. There are a few veteran options out there with the likes of former Whitecap Jeb Brovsky, who is currently on trial at New England Revolution. Dan Gargan was waived by LA Galaxy prior to the seasons start. Kofi Sarkodie lost his starting postion in Houston last season and is subsequently looking for work after not renewing his contract. Canadian International & former Benfica defender Steven Vitoria is looking for work, but his primary position is center back.
Another Canuck, David Edgar, is on loan and his contract with Birmingham City expires this summer and is unlikely to renew. Edgar is also primarily a center back, however has seen plenty of time at right back in his career. Problem is: Vancouver has a full roster at 28.
Robbo has a headache on his hands, but we say give the kid from Toronto another shot. No bias here.